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Monday, November 18, 2013

U.S. Navy and the Philippines Relief Effort - Logistics, Logstics and More Logistics

U.S. Navy photo by MC3 Class Ricardo R. Guzman
I am not going to replicate the excellent coverage of Operation Damayan, the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps efforts in the Philippines as they "assist" with post-typhoon recovery efforts. For many great stories, the very best site is the Home Page.

It appears that about 1/10 of the U.S. fleet eventually will be participating in these efforts. Unlike a hurricane hitting a major land mass in which over land transport may be restored, the Philippines presents a challenge since it consists of a huge number of islands and water transport is the key to normal life as well as to disaster relief efforts.

As with the "Christmas Tsunami" in 2003-2004, it's "logistics, logistics, logistics" that is the issue, and the U.S. fleet seems to be everyone's "first responder." While it is encouraging that Japan and so many other countries are pitching in their resources, the "international community" could, as I noted about 10 years ago, should really do some advance work in anticipation of what are, after all, common and frequent disasters:
The UN seems incapable of learning from its past failings. Why are there not ships preloaded with the sorts of emergency equipment that might be needed if a major earthquake hits Japan or the Philippines or Nicaragua? Why does the UN not have the humanitarian equivalent of the U.S. military's prepositioned ships? Load up their hulls with water purifiers, medicine, cranes, backhoes, fuel, generators, tents, food, heavy lift vehicles, jeeps, helicopters, field hospitals, etc. Then wait for the inevitable disaster. Have two or three sets of ships - South America, Asia, Africa.

Surely the expense is well within the budgets of the nations who support the UN. If such a system were in place, the only issues would be sailing the ships and arranging to have the necessary aid personnel arrive to marry up with their equipment. Instead, we have the incredible delays caused by the UN having to seek emergency funding from donor nations and then arranging for ships and then loading the ships and then sailing the ships.
I understand the way the UN operates that it is rarely necessary to justify the high salaries of UN employees, but if it was necessary, it would be interesting to see if they have a disaster contingency plan worth a portion of that pay that involves something other than, "Announce disaster in horrific terms. Wait for the U.S. to respond. Claim credit for responding."

From UNICEF progress report on Philippines relief:
UNICEF is working with the government and partners to identify air cargo capacity for the transportation of humanitarian personnel and life-saving supplies.
More from the UN here:
The humanitarian situation in the areas devastated by Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda) is catastrophic. Almost 13 million people are affected, including some five million children. 4 million men, women and children have been displaced, many desperate for food, safe drinking water, basic shelter and sanitation.
And the elements of the UN "Action Plan" here:
Existing information and field observations suggest that the most immediate threats to life are (in rough order of urgency):

- Lack of safe drinking water
- Lack of shelter
- Trauma injuries, especially if untreated
- Other acute medical conditions (including contagious diseases) if left untreated
- Disruption of treatment for severe acute malnutrition and for severe chronic disease
- Insufficient food
- Lack of sanitation and personal hygiene items
- Lack of household items and supplies (like fuel), especially for preparing food
U.S. Navy photo by MC3 Peter Burghart

Key capabilities immediately needed to enable fast action to address these include:

- Air and sea transport of relief goods and personnel
- Emergency telecommunications
- Temporary electrical power and fuel
- Debris removal

Medium-term threats to health, dignity and security include:

- Lack of access to primary and specialised health care
- Moderate acute malnutrition
- Psycho-social malaise
- Disruption of education, entailing loss of protective daytime environment for children
- Disruption of livelihoods, which will worsen general deprivation and add to humanitarian needs as soon as coping mechanisms have been exhausted.
My highlights are to point out the key logistics issues.

I attach the plan because I'll be darned after my hasty reading if I can find any reference to the U.S. ( or any other country's) civil-military contribution in the Plan. I am prepared to be corrected.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous7:03 AM

    We'll just have to hang tough until the UN's CTFs and Phibrons get there to help, perhaps China is sending one of theirs?